A Twist on Tradition at Citrus

Citrus Virginia Beach

Employee-owned Citrus embraces change with refreshed menu, new summer hours and the famous pancakes and mimosas you crave

By Grace Silipigni | Photos By Will Hawkins

Brunch has become a cherished American pastime. Gaggles of bunch-goers put their names on hours-long waitlists to indulge in mile-high pancake platters, grazing boards and specialty mimosas. This surge in demand has introduced a new competitive edge to the brunch game, one local restaurateurs take seriously. 

Citrus, a Virginia Beach mainstay and the OG of the local upscale brunch scene, is not shying away from the competition. In fact, the popular eatery with locations in the Shore Drive and Great Neck areas, recently shook things up by unveiling a brand-new menu. 

Menu redesigns are a rarity at Citrus, primarily because the beloved eatery prides itself on its reliability. Guests can count on fluffy, citrus-glazed pancakes and folded farm egg omelets every single visit. With the brunch market being more heavily saturated than ever before, however, the Citrus team wanted to brainstorm ways to stay ahead of the curve. 

Chicken and waffles at Citrus (Photo courtesy of Citrus)

The new menu now complements tried-and-true dishes with trending bites like out-of-the-box vegan and vegetarian plates, taco and waffle flights and Citrus’ spin on an espresso martini. 

“We have a lot of competitors, so I rely on my staff to best predict what the locals like and what’s trending,” says Ebony Williams, president and CEO of Citrus (pictured at top with staff at the Great Neck and Virginia Beach Boulevard location). “Staff are solely responsible for creating our weekly specials and drinks of the day, too.”

Let it be known that designing special offerings is no small task. Employees must thoroughly research and test each dish until it is perfected. The process, though thorough, is a lot of fun for staff. According to Williams, running a test kitchen after-hours is everyone’s favorite part. 

Some recent creations that have graced Citrus’ specialty menu include the Birthday Cake French Toast and the Citrus Sunrise Mimosa, a boozy concoction of champagne, tequila, citrus juices and a splash of grenadine. With summer just around the corner, the seasonal favorite soft-shell crab sandwich and soft-shell crab benedict will soon be making a comeback too. 

While adding recipe creation to her staff’s to-do list may seem like a lofty ask, Williams’ heavy reliance on her staff is intentional. Citrus employees are more than just servers, bussers and chefs; they are all co-owners of Citrus. 

Each employee, whether full-time or part-time, has a stake in the restaurant’s success and is considered a key decision maker for all policies and procedures. The restaurant’s employee-owned business model is incredibly unique and was made possible by late Citrus co-founder Cheri Shores.

Cheri and her husband, Lance, were pioneers in the local brunch movement. When they first opened Citrus’ doors in 2005, they rendered immediate success. Their “all things fresh” motto and dessert-like breakfast creations got people excited about the idea of a leisurely breakfast by the Bay. 

In the brightly lit dining room just off Shore Drive, early morning coffees extended into drawn out lunches, and thus brunch was born. Citrus gained so of a following that even Guy Fieri popped by to showcase Cheri and Lance’s talent on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives

In 2014, the Shoreses expanded their brunch empire by opening a second location on Great Neck Road. Business continued to thrive, but the Shores’ personal life took a turn for the worse. Following Cheri’s cancer diagnosis, the couple made the difficult decision to step away from Citrus and leave the company in the reliable hands of its new owners: their staff.  

“Traditionally small businesses are passed down to children or family members, but [several businesses] close because there isn’t a [next of kin] to assume responsibility,” explains Williams. “That was the case here. Lance and Cheri really thought of their employees as family, so transitioning to an employee-owned model [seemed like the next natural step] in continuing their legacy.”

Since Teamshares, the employees’ sponsor and a national empaloyee-ownership platform, assumed ownership in August 2022, the Citrus staff has been living out Cheri’s commitment to meaningful service. They pivot to meet customers’ needs and make any changes necessary to benefit the company. 

One such example is the staff’s decision to temporarily return to a seven-day operating schedule, one they have not followed since the pandemic. Both the Shore Drive and Great Neck locations will operate seven days a week, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. for the entire summer season. 

While the extra days are good for business, they’re also great for those of us looking to catch a deal. Join either Citrus location for special deals on food and drinks Monday through Friday. 

“At the end of the day, our goal as owners is to ensure that every table is touched and every customer leaves happy every single time,” says Williams.

Learn more at citrusvb.com.

Photos top to bottom: By Will Hawkins, courtesy of Citrus, by Will Hawkins, courtesy of Citrus

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Grace Silipigni
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Grace Silipigni is an elementary school Spanish immersion teacher based in Virginia Beach and a regular contributor to Coastal Virginia Magazine, covering a wide range of topics such as health and wellness, education and learning, food and drink, happenings and events, travel and getaways and more.

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